Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Math Resources!

Illustrative Mathematics has given us a great holiday gift!  They just announced that they are teaming up with K-12 OER Collaborative to create free middle school mathematics materials.  Many of us have been using the openly licensed Illustrative Mathematics tasks for years.  These tasks have always been well aligned and engaging.  We can't wait to see the new materials.  For more information on the collaboration, click here.

PARCC has also released some free new tools.  Have you checked out the PRC PARCC website yet?  In order to explore these new K-2 formative instructional tasks, you must create an account by using the Massachusetts code: MA1788.  Simply click on instructional tools in the top menu bar and you will see 'formative instructional tasks' as your first drop-down option.  Here you will be able to view 16 different kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade tasks.  My personal favorite is 'Math-Libs: Solving Two-Step Word Problems' a Grade 2 task addressing 2.OA.1.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Tomorrow is the big day!  The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will vote on Massachusetts' assessment system.  The meeting will begin at DESE at 8:30am.  As many of us know, Commissioner Chester announced that he is recommending the state transition to a next-generation MCAS that would be given for the first time in the spring of 2017. 

Tonight is the final public comment session on PARCC.  The session will run from 4-7pm and will be held in Malden High School's auditorium.  The address of Malden High School is 77 Salem St, Malden, MA.

Additionally, Massachusetts has released last year's PARCC scores.  All scores can be found in the School and District Profiles page by clicking here.  Through this webpage you are able to sort data by district, school, grade level, content and subgroup.  You can also take a look at statewide scores by clicking here.


Friday, October 16, 2015

3 New DESE Resources

The 'What To Look For' documents are finally live!  Feel free to check them out here.  The first set of released documents include mathematics grades 1-8 and science grades 1-8.  I highly recommend clicking on the PDF versions.  They are extremely visually pleasing and user-friendly.

If you are curious about the use of these documents, feel free to attend the Curriculum and Instruction Convening on October 27th or 28th.  I will be co-facilitating a workshop entitled, Developing a Shared Understanding of Quality Practice (8A) in which we watch a video and practice using the 'What To Look For' documents.  For more information about the Convening, click here.

Our last resource is a bank of videos.  Did you know that DESE has a YouTube page?  The bank includes 40 brand new high quality videos of K-12 classroom instruction covering four major content areas.  We will be showing one of these very videos during our Convening workshop.  Click here to get a sneak peak of the 7th grade math video!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

'What To Look For' Documents Coming Soon!

Many of you have already experienced a sneak preview of the 'What To Look For' documents at last May's Spring Convening.  At the time it was a pilot project and only two grade level documents existed for mathematics.  Since then we've collected feedback from districts and have made many updates and upgrades!  Now DESE has K-8th grade for mathematics and multiple grade levels for science available.  These documents will be available shortly on the DESE website. 

Additionally, I will be supporting a workshop at the Fall Convening on how to use the 'What To Look For' documents.  The workshop is titled, Developing a Shared Understanding of Quality Practice, and will incorporate multiple classroom videos from the 40 high quality videos that DESE recently released.  More information on the Fall Convening can be found here.  See you in Marlborough on either the 27th or 28th of October!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Free Graduate Courses Through MA FOCUS Academy!

The Massachusetts FOCUS Academy (MFA) offers cost-free, online, three (3) credit graduate courses that provide educators with the skills, knowledge and instructional strategies to improve outcomes for all students in safe and supportive inclusive environments.
  • Creating and Sustaining Positive School-Wide Learning Environment
  • Assessment of Students with Disabilities who are English Language Learners
  • Collaborative Co-teaching: Meeting the Needs of All Students
  • Differentiated Instruction
  • Partnering with Families of Middle School and High School Students with Disabilities
  • Partnering with Families of Preschool and Elementary School Students with Disabilities
  • Universal Design for Learning: Student Affect and Engagement
  • Universal Design for Learning: Addressing Learner Variability
  • Universal Design for Learning: Addressing Learner Variability in Mathematics Instruction
Course descriptions and syllabi can be found at Massachusetts FOCUS Academy Fall 2015.


Teams of at least two but no more than six practitioners who are currently working in a prioritized Massachusetts Public School District or school are eligible to apply for a course.  Priority is given to level 3 districts!


Please contact mtss@doe.mass.edu with any questions or comments

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Fall 2015 registration for RETELL (Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners) is open until Sept. 25. Spring 2016 RETELL registration will open Sept. 14 at 9 a.m. and close Jan. 15.

Educators who are on wait lists for fall courses will be given advanced access to spring registration and will be notified individually of the early registration procedure. 

Individuals who need help with registration or issues related to Blackboard Learn should call the RETELL Helpdesk at (888) 789-1109, use the Helpdesk's online chat at https://embanet.frontlinesvc.com/app/chat_launch/p/2188, or submit a ticket through https://embanet.frontlinesvc.com/app/ask/p/2188.

Do you have a question about RETELL that is not related to registration? Feel free to submit a ticket through the COMiT Inquiry System at http://www.doe.mass.edu/contact/qanda.aspx

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Preliminary MCAS Data

We’re expecting preliminary MCAS data availability by the end of this work week!  Once available, MCAS data will be in the Security Portal for districts and schools to review. However, unlike previous years, ESE will not be making any preliminary accountability determinations until later in the fall.  Below is a list of pertinent dates.

·         Friday, August 7th:
o   MCAS rosters, .csv files, and participation rate data available in the Security Portal dropbox called MCAS 2015 Data
o   MCAS discrepancy reporting window opens
·         Wednesday, August 12th: MCAS data in Edwin Analytics
·         Wednesday, August 19th: MCAS discrepancy reporting window closes at 5:00 p.m.
·         Late fall 2015: PARCC data and accountability determinations available (see http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/2015ReleaseSchedule.pdf for additional details)
Still have questions?  Please take a look at the table below:
Accountability questions

Where are the accountability data?

Accountability determinations require a comparison of assessment data, and this year that means using both PARCC and MCAS results. We won’t have PARCC data until sometime in October; as such, preliminary accountability data will not be available until late fall.
If they would like more information about accountability reporting in 2015, please take down their question and contact information and email them to esea@doe.mass.edu.
MCAS questions

Where are my MCAS data files?

In the Security Portal, in the MCAS 2015 drop box.

There is a problem with my MCAS data (e.g., the data are not correct)…

To report a potential MCAS discrepancy, contact the MCAS Service Center at 1-800-737-5103 or go to www.mcasservicecenter.com.

How long is the discrepancy reporting window open?

MCAS discrepancies must be reported by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 19th. Anything reported after that time may not be corrected in time for the official data release in mid-September.

I have additional questions about MCAS…

For questions related to MCAS data, call Student Assessment at x3625.

Edwin questions

My MCAS data is not in Edwin Analytics…
Preliminary MCAS data should be available in Edwin by close of business on Wednesday, August 12th.
I have a question about Edwin Analytics…
Contact the Data Warehouse at x6820.
Other questions

Can I share this data with the public/press/school committee/staff?

Preliminary MCAS data is embargoed until the official data release in mid-September. Districts may share this data internally only if it is pertinent to discussions around planning at this point in the year. However, since this data is preliminary and subject to change, it should not be shared with the press, school committees, or other external parties.
Are there webinars to help me with this information?
Webinars covering general information on preliminary MCAS data have been scheduled for the following dates and times:
·         Friday, August 7, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
·         Monday, August 10, 10:00-11:00 a.m.
Participants must register through the MCAS Service Center website at www.mcasservicecenter.com.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Extended Discrepancy Reporting Window

Did your district take the MCAS during the 2014-2015 school year?  If so, then this update is for you!The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is extending the length of the MCAS discrepancy reporting window to August 7-19. The extension will allow schools and districts to view preliminary reports in Edwin Analytics to help identify unusual patterns in their data. Data files and printable rosters showing full preliminary MCAS results for all grades in English language arts, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering will be available in DropBox Central beginning August 7. Edwin reports should be available on approximately August 12. See the updated 2015 assessment and accountability data review and release schedule for more details.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

$805,000 for McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Grants

Congratulations to 28 districts in Massachusetts for receiving $805,000 in McKinney-Vento Homeless Education grants.  These grants are designed to help schools ensure that homeless students enroll in school, attend school, and have the opportunity to succeed in school. Recipient districts have significant homeless student populations and will use this money to offer a variety of activities, including tutoring, before- and after-school programs, summer programs, staff training in best practices to support homeless students, and collaboration with medical, mental and dental health providers and community services.

These competitive grants are federally funded and will reach approximately 12,000 homeless students.  All 28 school districts across the Commonwealth that applied ended up receiving funding!  Feel free to take a look at the complete district list below:
To read more about how one Massachusetts district has worked with their homeless student population, click here.

Monday, June 29, 2015

PARCC on Fox News!

Did you see PARCC Inc. CEO Laura Slover on Fox News?  1 week ago, Fox named Laura Slover the 'Power Player of the Week' and travelled to PARCC Inc. to conduct an interview.  Fox made an effort to highlight both sides of the PARCC debate.  Feel free to check out the quick 3 minute video here.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Evaluating Educator Impact Implementation Update Form Due June 30th

Reminder: all districts must complete the evaluating educator impact implementation update form by the end of the month. This update will assist ESE's Educator Evaluation Team in understanding districts' progress in developing processes for collecting evidence of educator impact on student learning. That evidence will determine student impact ratings. The update form also includes the form districts must use to submit a request to pursue an alternative pathway. Click here to preview the questions included in the form. In order to successfully complete the update, districts will need the following information:
·        The status of collective bargaining related to the student impact rating. If an agreement has been reached, districts will be prompted to upload a copy of the agreement in Word or PDF format.
·        The status of the district's efforts to implement common measures in each content area.

·        Whether the district is requesting an alternative pathway for evaluating educator impact and, if so, the details of the proposed pathway, including an implementation plan. Requests for an alternative pathway must be made with the knowledge and support of the local teachers' union.
​If you have any questions about completing this form, please contact Ron Noble ((781)338-3243 or rnoble@doe.mass.edu) or Craig Waterman ((781) 338-3244 or cwaterman@doe.mass.edu). 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Year 4 High School Math Release Day

The Greater Boston DSAC would like to formally invite all year 4 high school math educators to Revere High School for a day of collaboration!  On June 15th, from 8:30am-2:00pm, educators will congregate from all over the Greater Boston area to discuss the final year of high school mathematics.  Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II tend to get all of the professional development opportunities, but this day is devoted to the high school educators who teach seniors.  We currently have teachers registered from Everett, Revere, Somerville, Malden, Winthrop and Chelsea but would love to include other DSAC districts as well.

If you are interested in attending, please contact Leah Tuckman at leah.tuckman@dsacma.org prior to Friday, June 12th.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Redefining Low Income

For many years, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has collected data on the number of low income students attending each of our public elementary and secondary schools. Research clearly shows that students from lower income households typically face more learning challenges than students from more affluent households. Collecting data on students’ family income helps us to direct more resources to their schools and helps us to monitor how well those schools are doing with those students.

The most commonly used metric for measuring income status has been eligibility for free or reduced price meals under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school nutrition program. Families submit application forms documenting their household income. If the income falls below certain levels set by USDA, students in that family can then receive free or reduced price school breakfasts and lunches. Under long-standing U.S. Department of Education guidance, these students are then recorded as “low income” for purposes of educational statistics.

Two years ago, USDA introduced the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) as an option for schools and districts with high concentrations of low income students. Under CEP, all students in the participating schools are entitled to receive free meals under the school nutrition program. This eliminates the cost and administrative burden of collecting and processing family applications, as well as the costs associated with collecting lunch fees. More importantly, CEP increases student participation in school nutrition programs, and we know that students learn better when they are not hungry. For all these reasons, DESE is encouraging eligible schools and districts to participate in CEP.

But without the availability of free and reduced price data in many of our largest districts, we faced the need to develop a new income status metric that could be used consistently across the state. This new metric, which we are calling economically disadvantaged to differentiate it from the old “low income” measure, will be used to report data from all schools and districts, not just those participating in CEP. The new measure will be based on a student’s participation in one or more of the following state-administered programs: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); the Transitional Assistance for Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC); the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) foster care program; and MassHealth (Medicaid).

Individual school districts have used the so-called “direct certification” process to access enrollment data from these programs for many years, in order to validate their free and reduced price school lunch participation. DESE will now use the same direct certification process on a statewide basis. Strict data security protocols are in place at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to ensure that all confidential data is protected in accordance with federal and state data privacy statutes and MassIT security policies.

Because of this change in methodology, the number of “economically disadvantaged” students reported as enrolled on October 1, 2014, in most schools will be lower than the number of “low income” students reported in 2013-14 and prior years. Obviously this has nothing to do with any real changes in family income; it is simply a shift from one valid measure to another valid measure. Neither measure is “right” or “wrong” (in fact, neither measure lines up exactly with the Census Bureau’s “poverty” definition), but either can be a useful surrogate in identifying how well we are serving children at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. It is important for users of this data to understand that enrollment percentages and achievement data for “economically disadvantaged” students cannot be directly compared to “low income” data in prior years.

How will this change affect particular district programs and activities? 

·       The foundation budget, which is used to calculate both Chapter 70 school aid and charter school tuition rates, currently relies on free and reduced price data. FY16 will be a transition year, using FY15 free and reduced price data from non-CEP districts and a combination of FY14 free and reduced price data plus direct certification for new students in CEP districts. For FY17 and beyond, we have recommended to the Foundation Budget Review Commission that the low-income increments in the formula be increased sufficiently to offset the lower number of students in the economically disadvantaged category.
·       For grant programs that require poverty data for eligibility or entitlement calculations, the appropriate DESE program office will provide guidance directly to districts and schools.
·       School building authority reimbursement rates are also based in part on low income percentages. We are providing information to the MSBA Board and will assist them in evaluating alternatives.
·       Performance metrics in DESE’s school and district accountability system will be updated to reflect the new measurement. DESE will provide additional guidance to districts regarding this transition.
·       Schools and districts that use free and reduced price eligibility for sliding scale fees or other local purposes may continue to do so. For schools participating in CEP, this may involve a combination of direct certification data and some supplemental data collection from families.
·       Districts will receive updated SIMS reporting instructions.

For further information or assistance, please contact:

Rob Curtin, Director of Education Data Services (rcurtin@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3582)

Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner (jwulfson@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-6500)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reading and Writing In Mathematics

As we all know, The Common Core State Standards call for a focus on literacy in all subjects; including math.  But where do we find guidance on how to teach literacy in the mathematics classroom?

The WGBH Educational Foundation and Annenberg Learner have collaborated in the creation of Reading and Writing in the Disciplines. This  course focuses on what it means to be an effective communicator in each of the disciplines.  It provides multiple ways to integrate literacy practices into lessons.  Units 1-4 of this course discuss disciplinary literacy and are designed for all teachers, but units 5-8 are subject specific and get into the nitty gritty of literacy in the math classroom specifically.

Additionally, the entire Annenberg Learner website seems to have been redesigned and updated!  Remember the Counting Stairs problem that I have used at both network meetings and within the math and special education protocols?  The problem itself is now interactive!  Check it out here.  You can even watch videos of students working on the staircase problem.

Speaking of videos, Massachusetts schools are featured throughout the Reading and Writing in the Disciplines website! Towns such as Brookline, Reading and Malden have graciously volunteering their classrooms to support this project. Feel free to check out this free and comprehensive resource.

Monday, May 11, 2015

New Massachusetts Science Ambassadors

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Museum of Science Boston, and WGBH seek applicants to represent Massachusetts on a new Science Ambassadors team.
Massachusetts anticipates adoption of revised Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) Standards in the fall of 2015 and is setting up supports to aid district planning and implementation. The Science Ambassadors will play a key role in supporting the state’s transition to revised STE standards over the next several years by helping educators, administrators, and the public to understand the revised standards and their implications for curriculum, instruction, and student learning.
The Science Ambassadors team will provide leadership in their districts and across the state. We anticipate selecting up to 40 Ambassadors representing a diverse spectrum of backgrounds, experiences, and regions. To establish this team, selected members will initially make a two to four day commitment during Spring 2015.
Additional information can be found here.  Applications are due May 19th and can be found here.
Selected Ambassadors will receive a stipend for work done outside the two-day Academy and to defray travel costs, as well as hotel costs for western participants.  Districts are eligible for substitute reimbursement for the two days (max $150 per day).

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Evolution of DDMs

At the urging of stakeholders, including the M.A.S.S. officers and Superintendent Advisory Council, and supported by data, including an independent program evaluation funded by ESE and a survey administered by M.A.S.S., ESE has decided to offer districts the opportunity to request permission to use an alternative pathway for evaluating educator impact than trends and patterns using DDMs. Working closely with the Commissioner and Legal, ESE developed the Alternative Pathways Proposal and announced the proposal at the M.A.S.S. Mid-Winter Meeting in March. In late April ESE followed up with a Quick Reference Guide (QRG) that provides more information about the proposal, including why they're offering it, which districts should apply, and how to submit a request.
The proposal does not signal the death of DDMs. Nor is it the “new DDMs.” ESE fully expects that many districts will stay the course. ESE still stands behind the framework, but has recognized this year that for a variety of reasons, not all districts are making the sort of progress expected. ESE hopes that the proposal gives every district a foothold to continue moving forward.

The three potential pathways ESE describes in the QRG are options for districts to consider, but do not represent an exhaustive list. A hybrid or something completely different might be approved, so long as it aligns to the 5 Core Principles.

The use of at least one common measure is a fixture of all alternative pathways to support comparability across grades/subjects. As a result, the work districts have done to date to develop DDMs will be utilized whether a district chooses to stay the course or request a new pathway.

 If you have any questions about the Alternative Pathways Proposal, please contact Ron Noble (rnoble@doe.mass.edu) Craig Waterman (cwaterman@doe.mass.edu) or Heather Peske (hpeske@doe.mass.edu).  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tell DESE How You Really Feel About PARCC

With the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Performance Based Assessment in your rearview mirror, I'm sure you have a lot of feedback for the PARCC team.  I have good news for you; the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is holding a series of forums across the state this spring and summer, to provide more extensive opportunity for public comment on PARCC.  Even if you can't attend one of the forums, DESE still wants to hear your voice! Feel free to write a testimony and send your thoughts to boe@doe.mass.edu.

In addition to hearing from members of the public, DESE is also setting aside the first portion of each forum to hear invited expert testimony on specific topics, from educators who are familiar with the PARCC assessments. The dates and topics for this portion of the forums are as follows:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Fitchburg State University, Hammond Hall, 3pm

Topic: Test administration (non-technology) issues, including:

·         Ease of administration of PARCC paper test compared to MCAS

·         Use of timed tests

·         Splitting test into two parts (PBA and EOY)

·         Responsiveness of DESE and Pearson call centers

·         Special accommodations

Monday, May 18, 2015, Bunker Hill Community College, A300 Auditorium, 4pm

Topic: Test administration – technology issues, including:

·         Issues and problems with delivering the online test

·         Studentsadjustment to online test

·         Advantages/disadvantages of moving to an online platform

·         District readiness for online tests

Wednesday, June 10, 2015, Bridgewater State University, Rondileau Campus Center Ballroom, 4pm

Topic: Test content – English language arts, including:

·         Alignment of test content to curriculum frameworks

·         Clarity of test items

·         Grade appropriateness of test items

·         Comparison of MCAS and PARCC test content

Monday, June 22, 2015, North Shore Community College – Lynn Campus, Gymnasium, 4pm

Topic: Test content – mathematics, including:

·         Alignment of test content to curriculum frameworks

·         Clarity of test items

·         Grade appropriateness of test items

·         Comparison of MCAS and PARCC test content

Tuesday, July 7, 2015, Springfield Technical Community College, Top of Our City Conference Center, 4pm

Topic: College/career readiness – high school tests, including:

·         Alignment with expected proficiency levels for credit-bearing college coursework

·         Usefulness as a tool for college placement
·         Relationship to competency determination

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Brand New Statistics Model Curriculum Unit

The first ever statistics Model Curriculum Unit (MCU) was just released to the public.  We are very pleased with the final product.  This MCU includes all of the 6th grade statistics standards from the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for Mathematics. Many of these standards are new to the 6th grade.  The Curriculum Embedded Performance Assessment (CEPA) is incredibly hands-on and requires students to explore and analyze data from the United States Census Bureau Website.

MCUs were developed by teachers as curriculum tools and/or resources for use by educators in classrooms across the state of Massachusetts.  As we have said from the beginning, we want to educators to take these units and make them their own.  For a full list of current available MCUs, you must fill out a few pieces of information at DESE's Model Curriculum Website.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Integrating Processes to Address Needs of ELLs

DESE is in the process of releasing a new tool that can be used in the classroom.  The SEI Smart Card is designed to:
  • focus professional development
  • allocate resources, such as materials and coaches
  • identify strengths and weaknesses of current SEI practice
  • plan for ELE improvement
The SEI smart card  is going to eventually become an app but right now exists as a one-page double sided document.  Below are the two sides of the document.

Additionally, MATSOL is offering a course specifically designed for mathematics coaches that focuses on the roles of the coach in supporting, expanding and sustaining effective mathematical practices in diverse math classrooms with ELLs. For more information on this course, head to:


Still have unanswered questions?  Feel free to email Zhaneta Liti, ELL Urban Coordinator in Eastern Massachusetts, at zliti@doe.mass.edu